Nov 4, 2022 - Sports

Philly heads to the MLS Cup

Cory Burke of Philadelphia Union celebrates his goal

Cory Burke celebrates a goal on Oct. 30. Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty

Philly’s sports teams are on a tear.

Driving the news: The Union, in a bit of revenge, toppled New York City to secure their first berth in the MLS Cup and are facing top-seeded Los Angeles FC at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.

  • Our professional soccer club, in other words, is on the verge of winning a championship.

Catch up fast: The Union first took the field in 2010 and qualified for the playoffs only twice in their first eight years, per ESPN.

  • But they’ve been a steady force since 2018, finishing no lower than third in their conference the last three seasons, and winning MLS’s Supporters Shield in 2020, the gong for the team with the best regular-season record.

The matchup: Philly and Los Angeles were the best teams all year, but that hasn’t always guaranteed a championship. Sometimes the hottest — but not the best — sides win titles thanks in part to the league’s single-elimination format.

  • In fact, it’s been 19 years since the top-seeded teams from each conference advanced to the final.

The mood: Beyond pumped. But also, redemptive.

  • Last year, captain Alejandro Bedoya and 10 other players were sidelined because of a COVID outbreak and pandemic protocols as a depleted Union lost 2-1 to New York City FC in the 2021 Eastern Conference final. It was a crushing way to end the season.
  • Bedoya stayed in the parking lot for an hour, distraught. The dream for that year was over,” he says.

Names to know: The Union are led by a stalwart defense that conceded only 26 goals — an MLS record — while midfielder Daniel Gazdag powered a potent offense. Goalkeeper Andre Blake won his third MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award.

The big picture: The Union’s trek to the Cup has been somewhat “overshadowed” by a surge of success for Philly’s sports teams, Bedoya acknowledges. He’s optimistic fans will tune in for the final.

What they’re saying: “You couldn’t have written a better script,” Bedoya told Axios. “The sports teams have given a lot of folks in the city a lot of optimism and hope and just some really good positive vibes. It would mean a lot for the city, for us and others, to bring home some trophies.

How to watch: 4pm, on FOX and Univision.

💬 Isaac’s thought bubble: Most sportswriters are picking LAFC, but a mentor once told me sportswriters are the worst prognosticators because they know too much about matchups. Philly’s clamp-down defense sends a 1-1 game into overtime, and the Union prevail in penalty kicks.

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